Comments on watching and making films.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Silent House

Silent House is a movie that rides the line between an ability to be genuinely scary and falling into predictable non-scariness. Elizabeth Olsen plays Sarah, a young woman who has returned, with her father and uncle, to a disintegrating vacation home that they are trying to clean out, fix up and sell. Things take a wrong turn relatively quickly, though, after her uncle leaves to go get something in town. Sarah starts hearing noises, her father disappears, and she ends up locked in the house with an intruder, and the apparition of a little girl.

Silent House was a strange experience for me. Adam Trese and Eric Sheffer Stevens, who play the Father and Uncle respectively, are not particularly good actors (or, at least, their skills don't show through in this film). Add to that the fact that Trese (the father) looks like he can't be more than ten years older than Sarah, and Stevens looks to be the same age as her. Olsen may only be in her early twenties, but she doesn't look it.

The film is done in one 80 minute (give or take) shot, and the break down of my enjoyment of the film kind of went like this - I was interested for about the first twenty minutes. Then, the next forty minutes, my interest waned to the point of me feeling like the movie was going to end predictably, and I would be leaving the theater upset, but the last twenty minutes ended up being a bit of a surprise, which redeemed the film from being a total waste of time and money.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

DVD - Hotel Monterey

Hotel Monterey explores an aging Manhattan hotel in the 1970's, along with, sometimes, its occupants. Akerman trains her camera on the hallways, lobby, elevators, and various rooms in the hotel.

While this would, ultimately, work better as a series of stills in a gallery, rather than a film, there are interesting moments in it, but its hour long run time (completely silent) is prohibitive for almost anyone except hardcore fans of observational cinema. There are moments that definitely peak interest, such as a group of elderly women who sit in the lobby, or rooms that are captured with their occupants in them, but this is the kind of film I wouldn't recommend unless your into staring at the same thing for long periods of time.

DVD - Hot Coffee

Hot Coffee is director Susan Saladoff's exploration of the world of Tort Reform and the fight against "frivolous" lawsuits. The film is centered on a case from the 1990's, in which an elderly woman successfully sued McDonald's after having severely burned herself after spilling coffee onto herself. The woman won her case, but, because of the way the press handled it, and smear campaigns by McDonalds and the politicians in their pockets, the woman was made out to be a gold digger, suing for something that other's say is really her fault.

Saladoff does a great job at bringing out the information on this, and several other cases in this documentary, and one is left to contemplate how much of the truth we actually get from the press and the corporate spin machine. You also feel like a bit of a fool when you realize the extent of damage that this reform, which was supposed to be good for us, has done. I highly recommend Hot Coffee. It's an incredibly informing piece, and has made me think twice about a lot.

DVD - News From Home

It is the late 1970's and Chantal Akerman has just moved to New York. Through locked off shots of the city in a wide variety of locale's, and voice over of Akerman reading her mother's letters to her over this period of time, the audience is given a sense of the kind of varied emotions a parent goes through when their child not only leaves home, but ventures across an ocean to a new, mysterious place.

News From Home can be incredibly slow at times, with long shots of the city (anywhere between two and three minutes long, probably having been shot on 100' reels of 16mm). It's the letters from Akerman's mother that put the film in perspective and give it a life. Otherwise it's just a bunch of shots of New York City, and, for the most part, not always interesting ones. The film is interesting, to a point, but it should really be about half of its running time, or less.

DVD - La Chambre

This is the synopsis from Criterion's website - In Chantal Akerman’s early short film La chambre, we see the furniture and clutter of one small apartment room become the subject of a moving still life—with Akerman herself staring back at us.

That pretty much sums up the film. It's multiple 360 degree shots of Akerman's apartment, for about ten minutes. Not much else to say.

Monday, March 5, 2012

DVD - The Changeling

George C. Scott was in a lot of films during his career, and the best thing I can say about The Changeling, is that it was one of them. It's not really a horror film, but rather a murder mystery with supernatural elements to it that moves at the pace of playing a board game with dead people. Even though, in reality, Changeling isn't that slow, it feels slow, like it was a decent Twilight Zone episode that got stretched out into two hours. The film also feels terribly dated, which doesn't help it... I suppose all films that are made in a certain time period end up that way, but this one is one of those films where all of the fashion, the cars, the lighting, and the editing techniques shout "THIS FILM WAS MADE IN THE 70's!!!". Changeling gets a lot of credit for its having influenced so many other directors, and I see where that comes from, but, ultimately, this is one of those movies that network TV used to show on Saturday afternoons and you usually caught it because there was nothing else to do.

Nova's "Secrets of the Wild Child"

As this doesn't seem to be an official upload, don't be surprised if you stumble across this post and the link doesn't work.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

KCRW's On The Record:LA Vinyl


Penned by Max Landis and Josh Trank, Chronicle is the story of three high school seniors, cousins Andrew and Matt, and popular guy Steve, who discover a hole in the woods, which holds an unexplained phenomena that gives them telekinetic powers. But, as the old saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility...

Chronicle is nothing new. Normal people being given super or God like powers is something that's been done. A lot. I will say, though, that Trank makes it interesting. It was, for the most part, a thoroughly enjoyable film. My gripe? The whole "found footage"/first person shooter approach. In the film, Andrew, who is an outcast at his school and has a less than ideal home life, buys a camera to record everything that goes on his life with. Hence, we see (almost) the entire film from his perspective.

Which is stupid.

And pointless.

This movie spent a TON of money on special effects. You're telling me you couldn't have spent a few extra dollars to shoot this from the third person? Mix it up a little! Give us some different camera angles! This "found footage" thing is SO over played, and, as if it didn't seem gimmicky enough in a normal movie, in this one, it was just DRIPPING gimmick. Because of that, if I was going on the five star method of rating, I would say that a movie that could have been a solid four stars, got knocked down to three, if I'm feeling generous. Two to two and a half, if I'm not.

One thing that I do want to note, though, is that Steve is played by Friday Night Lights alum Michael B. Jordan, and, even though his role doesn't particularly require a lot of depth of character, he does a great job, as does Dane DeHaan, who plays Andrew (which is part of why it's a shame this is a first person perspective film. This kid should have been in front of the camera more.)